A few mysteries surround Charles A. Proctor’s untimely death. How did he really die? What were his troubles? Can we ever prove he was murdered? And why did the newspapers have several different stories? We know a few things. He died May 15, 1913 at his Sopori Ranch homestead and the family dynamic was never the same.
Charles married Jesusita Salazar on November 5, 1888 at St. Augustine’s Cathedral in Tucson AZ. Though Jesusita was raised by the Salazars, she was born a Valenzuela in Hermosillo. Jesusita lived at the La Tesota ranch with the Salazars. When Charles had been ill she nursed him back to good health. Charles was 31 and Jesusita was 15 when they were married. They had six children and shared time between Sopori, La Tesota and Box Canyon ranches by 1913.
Tomas Elias Sr. was from a Spanish pioneering family dating back to the late 1700’s. Elias Sr. was selling off land and Charles bought part of the Sopori ranch around 1908. At one time it was a large land grant but it has been divided into smaller ranches over the years. One of Tomas Elias Sr. sons, Tomas Elias Jr. lived and worked on the Sopori property next to Charles and Jesusita.
Over the next couple years, Jesusita and Tomas Elias Jr., had an affair. Charles became aware of the situation and with the relationship strained, Jesusita and Charles would argue. A couple weeks before Charles died, Jesusita overdosed on laudanum and was rushed to St. Marys Hospital by Charles. She recovered and returned to the ranch. Still things were not right; Charles told the boys “If you ever find me dead, go after Tomas (Jr.).” Charles was paranoid, his wife tried to commit suicide, and her lover had threatened him. He created a Last Will and Testament less than six months prior to his death.
So the story goes… after an argument with Jesusita, Charles goes out for a late night walk to clear his mind. He did not return and was found at 5 A.M. 50 yards from the house. Early on the paper says he committed suicide but there were no bullet holes or marks of violence. A coroner’s jury decided that he had come to his death from unknown causes.
Curious tales from family and newspapers say Charles’ face was washed (clean of dirt from a fall) and he had blood on his mouth. It’s also suspect that Charles would be carrying around a revolver that had cobwebs in it. (Tucson Citizen 05/17/1913) The family theory is Tomas and Jesusita smothered him and carried him out by the road. We have no proof.
Since the Proctor “boys” were convinced that Tomas Jr. and Jesusita were responsible for their fathers death, they despised him. Day to day life was hostile. Their uncle Frank L told them to not to act on anger. But Jesusita, now a wealthy widow had let Tomas Jr. take over most of the ranch duties. Things were tense. The youngest son, Frank, age 15 or 16, was beaten after he tried to recover a horse from Tomas Jr.
On September 11, 1915 Jesusita Proctor and Tomas Elias Jr. were married in Nogales, AZ and returned to the Elias ranch (next to the Proctor’s). On the morning of September 13, Tomas Jr. went over to the Proctor ranch house and was sitting in the kitchen. Frank testified later at the trial, “Went in through kitchen. Inside I walked ahead, saw Tomas Elias there, near a table, in a sitting position. Elias made as if to grab me, and made as if to get his gun; I drew my gun as quick as I could, fired several times and turned and ran.”
Jesusita hired an attorney to fight against her two sons and ceased contact with all sons. She kept the sisters away from their older brothers, even the ones not involved. Frank L Proctor, who was living in California at the time, came to town and hired lawyers for George and Frank. The law firm of Duffy and Purdom, assisted by Tom Richey, began gathering evidence to present a self defense case. People testified that Tomas Elias Jr. was known to be aggressive and violent towards the boys. The jury was complied of family friends, people who knew the Proctor boys. On November 6, 1915, George and Frank Proctor were declared not guilty and set free.
Jesusita remained distant from the boys and was controlling of her two daughters. She lived with her daughter, Mary, until her death in 1958. The divide had lasted generations. Recently, the descendants of the daughters and sons have gathered for small family get-togethers. We all have tid-bits that were handed down. What really happened? Only a couple people know and they are long gone.